Global Temperature Analysis For August, 2015: Hotter Than Ever

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The temperature anomaly for 2015 is well ahead of any other year. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The temperature anomaly for 2015 is well ahead of any other year. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

On September 17, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) released its report on August 2015 global land and sea temperatures and precipitation.

Anyone surprised that this was the hottest August since record-keeping began in 1880 has not been paying attention to these monthly reports.

The five months with the largest departures above the 20th century average have all come in 2015.

Every month of 2015 is outstripping the corresponding months of all previous years for average combined land and sea temperature.

Some Of The Temperature Highlights Of August 2015

Here are some of the temperature highlights of August, 2015:

  • The western United States was hot and dry, exacerbating the fire danger.
  • As a whole, Europe was warm: 4.1° F (2.3° C) above normal.
  • Spain was especially hot.
  • The United Kingdom was a little below normal.
  • Eastern Russia and Mongolia had record warm temperatures.
  • Africa had its warmest August since 1910.
  • South America had its warmest August since 1910.

Overall, northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere, and global temperatures for land only, sea only, and land and sea combined were the warmest ever in seven of the nine categories. The land only temperatures for each hemisphere were the second warmest ever.

Temperatures For The Three Month Period June Through August

Temperatures for June to August were record warm over large areas of the globe. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

Temperatures for June to August were record warm over large areas of the globe. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The three months, June to August, were the warmest in every category except northern hemisphere land temperature, which was third warmest ever. Large sections of the land and sea had record temperatures.

With El Niño in full swing, it’s not surprising that the equatorial Pacific was warm. But record temperatures extended north to the subtropics and the Gulf of Alaska. More than half of the eastern North Pacific Ocean had record warm water for the period June to August.

Record warm water was also observed in the subtropical Atlantic and much of the Indian ocean. Only the persistently cold pool in the northeast Atlantic Ocean was significantly cooler than normal.

On land, most of South America and much of Africa had their warmest June to August periods.

2015 Year To Date Is Extremely Warm

The period January to August was the warmest on record. The continuing pattern of warmth in the Pacific Ocean and the western US was evident, as were the warm continents of Africa and South America. The eastern US was cold, and the cold water in the northeast Atlantic was pronounced.

January to August, 2015 land temperature averaged 2.32° F (1.29° C) above the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2007 by 0.29° F (0.16° C). At this rate, the land will warm 3.63° F (2.00° C) in a hundred years.

January to August, 2015 globally-averaged sea surface temperature averaged 1.22° F (0.68° C) above the 20th century average. This beat last year’s record by 0.13° F (0.07° C). At this rate, the sea surface temperature will rise 13° F (7° C) in a hundred years. A century from now, fishermen may land their catches fully cooked.

The graph of January to June temperatures shows an unmistakable upward trend that is not sustainable over centuries without catastrophic climate change. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

The graph of January to June temperatures shows an unmistakable upward trend that is not sustainable over centuries without catastrophic climate change. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

Any extrapolation depends critically on the starting and ending points.

Extrapolations from short-term changes should be eyed skeptically. However, when the data are smoothed over a longer period of time, the temperature rise is unmistakable — and unsustainable over a period of centuries without catastrophic results.

Sea Ice Extent

August marked a change in the sea ice measurements. While the Arctic continued to show the effects of global warming, the Antarctic, which has seen thickening ice for several years, lost a little bit.

Arctic sea ice was the fourth thinnest since satellite measurements began in 1979. Antarctic was the ninth thinnest, and the first month below average since November of 2011.

August Precipitation

Precipitation is highly variable month-to-month — and in a single month between places only a few miles apart. Nevertheless, some trends can be observed in the June through August precipitation data:

June to August precipitation was especially heavy across the Mediterranean Sea. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

June to August precipitation was especially heavy across the Mediterranean Sea. Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

  • The American midwest and northeast were wetter than normal.
  • The American west was dry.
  • A swath from northern Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to the middle East was extremely wet.
  • Southern South America was wet.
  • Most of Europe was dry.
  • Parts of India and Australia were drier than normal, as would be expected in an El Niño year.

Are We In A Period Of Increasing Global Warming?

The recent surge in the rate of rise of temperature can be attributed to the powerful El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, feedback mechanisms are at work, both positive and negative, which could alter the temperature change.

For example, the melting of the Arctic Ocean has a positive feedback: Water absorbs solar radiation much more readily than ice, which reflects most of the sun’s rays. The rapid rise in Arctic temperatures, twice the global average, is certainly having an effect. Some studies show that global warming is underestimated because heat is being stored in the oceans.

Temperature Rises; Will Politicians Act?

Decades of dithering have placed the earth’s population in danger of experiencing unexpected and possibly catastrophic changes in weather and climate. The ineffective Kyoto Protocol has been superseded as a basis for action by a bi-lateral agreement between the United States and China, the world’s two most prolific producers of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

On November 30, an international conference with the goal of producing legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions will convene in Paris. Known as COP 21, this meeting may be the last chance to avoid some really serious consequences of mankind’s collective irresponsible burning of fossil fuels.

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